The Portland Protest Shooter’s Death Looks More and More Like Excessive Force—but Trump Keeps Bragging About It
Execution squad? The more that comes out about the federal task force killing of Portland murder suspect Michael Forest Reinoehl, the worse his death looks.
The president isn’t helping. “We sent in the U.S. Marshals. Took 15 minutes, it was over. Fifteen minutes, it was over—we got him,” Donald Trump told a crowd in North Carolina on Thursday. “They knew who he was. They didn’t want to arrest him, and 15 minutes—that ended.”
A benefit-of-the-doubt reading here would be that Trump’s “they” who “didn’t want to arrest” was a reference to the Portland police—who hadn’t yet arrested Reinoehl by the time the task force intervened—and not an admission that agents didn’t want to take Reinoehl in alive (as some have been reading it).
But either way, the end of the mission is nothing to be bragging about. By many accounts, the officers didn’t even attempt to arrest Reinoehl peacefully.
Investigators said this week that Reinoehl—pursued for fatally shooting Aaron “Jay” Danielson during a confrontation at an August 29 protest in Portland—had a loaded handgun when local law enforcement serving on the U.S. Marshals Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force killed him on September 3. But the gun was still in Reinoehl’s front pants pocket as police fired more than 30 bullets at him.
One member of the task force claimed that Reinoehl pointed a gun at them. Another said that didn’t happen, but Reinoehl was reaching for a gun when they shot him. A U.S. Marshal’s Office press release claimed Reinoehl “produced a firearm, threatening the lives of law enforcement officers.”
This week, Thurston County Sheriff’s Lt. Ray Brady said that Reinoehl’s hand may have been on a gun or may have been merely “near” the gun.
At a Tuesday press conference, investigators said they still do not know if the gun in Reinoehl’s pocket on the night of his death was the same gun used to kill Danielson a few nights prior.
Almost two dozen witnesses to Reinoehl’s subsequent death say task force members never identified themselves or warned Reinoehl before opening fire on him, though Sheriff Brady disputed this on Tuesday.
Nathaniel Dingess, who lived nearby, told The Oregonian in September that he “saw Reinoehl walk toward his car holding a cellphone in his hand when two unmarked law enforcement vehicles converged outside the complex [and] began firing at Reinoehl.” After initially shooting, they told Reinoehl to halt and then resumed shooting, Dingess said, adding that he never saw Reinoehl reach for a gun.
The New York Times talked with 22 people who had been nearby when Reinoehl was killed, and only one recalled the task force members saying anything before they starting shooting:
Mr. Louis…some 140 feet from Mr. Reinoehl, also said the police opened fire immediately, without giving any warnings—as did Mr. Smith and Mr. Cutler.
“There was no, ‘Get out of the car!’ There was no, ‘Stop!’ There was no nothing. They just got out of the car and started shooting,” Mr. Louis said.
Mr. Smith described it similarly: “There was no yelling. There was no screaming. There was no altercation. It was just straight to gunshots.”
Of the five eyewitnesses, none saw Reinoehl holding or reaching for a gun.
Despite the questions surrounding the officers conduct, Trump has repeatedly bragged about this operation—and even described it as “retribution.”
Trump: We sent in the US Marshals, took 15 minutes and it was over… They knew who he was, they didn’t want to arrest him and 15 minutes that ended pic.twitter.com/fJA5BsJVeF
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) October 15, 2020
Presidential candidates Joe Biden, Donald Trump, and Jo Jorgensen fielded voter questions on Thursday night. On a night originally slated for a debate between Trump and Biden, the Republican and Democratic nominees instead squared off in dueling TV interviews.
During Biden’s time taking questions in Philadelphia from ABC host George Stephanopoulos, Biden said police should shoot people in the leg as a deescalation tactic (this is a bad idea); asked if he supports court packing, he said he was “open to considering what happens” after the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation process.
“We shouldn’t be defunding cops,” Biden says, suggesting instead that there be more mandates and training for police officers.
Including, I guess, telling them to shoot people in t
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